Thursday, March 11, 2010

They're Coming to Take You Away

Look out, American readers. Times are tough, taxes can't be raised much higher, and libraries across the land are desperate. Well...some libraries in parts of Colorado are desperate enough to throw your sorry butt in jail if you don't return that DVD you borrowed from them. Remember, the key word is "borrowed." Libraries don't give those things away just because you'd like to have a copy of your own but are too cheap to actually, you for one.

From ABC News, with Diane Sawyer, comes the story:

The answer from the Colorado State Patrol stunned him. Henson never returned the DVD he'd checked out of the Littleton library, and there was a warrant out for his arrest.

"I was just shocked," he said. "I was like 'What? I've got a what now?'"

After spending eight hours in a county jail, during which time he was fingerprinted, photographed and booked, Henson's father bailed him out. He had tried calling his mother for help, but she didn't seem to believe him, telling Henson there was no "book police."
City spokeswoman Kelli Narde said Littleton lost $7,800 in lost library materials in 2009, including Henson's DVD. They issued 81 summonses for failure to return library materials, she said. "And 80 of them were resolved without a problem."

The warrant Henson was brought in on in January was actually for failure to appear. The town claimed it sent numerous bills, notices, a summons and a notice of a court date, but they apparently were all sent to a previous address and Henson saw none of them.

"I understand the city was following its procedure ... but when somebody's not informed of a court date and then they're getting arrested on the side of the road, getting embarrassed, having fear and all that, it just doesn't sit well with me," Henson said.

Narde said they don't buy that Henson never knew they were looking for the DVD, noting that they left two cell phone messages and that their notices didn't get returned by the postal service meaning someone had to have picked them up at his old address.
Narde said the city council met Tuesday and agreed to research a possible revision to the policy on issuing arrest warrants in similar cases.

"In the meantime the court and the police department have been directed not to issue any summons for failure to return library materials," she said.

The city has also refunded the $460 the arrest cost the Hensons and promised to wipe the incident off Henson's record...
So what do you think? Is this as crazy as it first sounds or is there a lesson to be taught to those egomaniacs who always seem to believe that laws don't really apply to people like them. After all, our Congressmen certainly behave this way, so why can't the rest of us? Personally, I hope the guy learned a lesson and that the publicity got through a few other thick skulls along the way. But, hey, that's just me.


  1. You know what? I've got ZERO sympathy for the guy. Some folks are just irresponsible, and a little wake up call is a good thing.

  2. I don't know. I'm very responsible about things like this - trying to remain within the law, not get speeding tickets, etc.

    I got a ticket over a year ago and took care of it immediately. This past week I got a letter from the DMV saying my license would not be renewed next month because I had some outstanding violation on my record. It does not list what it is or when it occurred, and I have no knowledge of any outstanding violation. I have called the number provided (as well as numbers I have looked up on my own) multiple times but can never get through to anyone. The letter states they have sent previous notices, but I have not received one. At all.

    So, in my instance, it's not that I'm an irresponsible person - at all - and in fact, I have no idea what the issue is because I still cannot get anyone on the phone. I'd give the guy a break before we start hauling people off to jail without successful notification.

  3. How would "successful notification" be defined, though? The library didn't necessarily know that the address they were sending the notices to was old, because they received no notification of any kind that it was old. As far as they knew, he was getting the notices and just ignoring them. I don't think the library was at fault here, although I can also understand Henson's bewilderment.

    Personally, although I can see the library being demonized for sending someone to jail for failure to return a DVD, I think it's a good thing that they've set things up so that there are actual consequences for people won't return library books. People have a tendency not to value the services that libraries provide, because they are provided for free (or the appearance of free), so they tend not to think of stealing library materials, not returning library materials, and damaging library materials as not being a big deal. This makes it a big deal. It might not make people value the library's services more, but people might at least take better care of the materials they are being privileged to borrow. And, with library hours, services, and branches being cut all over, it is a privilege.

  4. Certified mail - someone has to sign for it in order for it to be considered successful. It's not that much more expensive.

  5. I agree, Mike. Kinda funny how he went running to mom and dad to bail him out. No sympathy here.

  6. Good points, PickyGirl. I agree that the authorities have to be very careful in cases like these...and I think that arrest is a bit over the top but I do think that large fines are appropriate. I really get irritated when I try to reserve a book or movie and find out that it is "missing." "Missing is just not the right word...go after the thief and make him pay, is the answer.

  7. Library Girl, my gripe is that, if libraries act like they are helpless to fight back, this problem will only get worse and worse. It is the honest library patrons, those who never return anything late without a good reason (and still feel guilty about doing it) who suffer. It's time the "me people" pay a price for their ego problems.